SER National Affiliate: Multicultural Career Intern Program

SER National Affiliate: Multicultural Career Intern Program

In the vibrant heart of Washington, DC, a dynamic spirit of learning and achievement ignites the Multicultural Career Intern Program (MCIP) corridors. More than just a family, MCIP has cultivated an entire community—a tapestry woven from its members’ diverse voices, backgrounds, and experiences. In this bustling hub of ambition and collaboration, individuals unite in a shared pursuit of academic excellence and personal growth.

MCIP is where dreams take flight, barriers are shattered, and lives are transformed for the betterment of oneself and the uplifting of all touched by its profound influence. Welcome to MCIP, where the journey of discovery knows no bounds. “Our focus is on preparing young people to succeed in academics and to be leaders in their community,” says Maria Tukeva, MCIP Founder. “This also means becoming leaders in the quest for social justice, and we do this through providing them with educational experiences that help them become designers of their future,” she adds.

The year was 1979 when a beacon of hope first emerged on the educational horizon – the inception of MCIP. Founded with a noble purpose, MCIP aimed to cater to the overlooked potentials of promising students, many of whom hailed from low-income backgrounds and belonged to linguistic minority groups. “From the beginning, we had a long-standing commitment to college and career success for not only Latino young people but all young people of color and that as a school and its associated foundation, they were and are today our number one priority,” she says. Yet, Tukeva saw that these bright minds were slipping through the crevices of the SER America · Spring 2024 16efficient model where the school does instructional services during the day. MCIP does enhanced and extended instructional services after school through the evening. Our efficiency benefits every student because we have different grants that complement what the school does. It perfectly complements the instructional vision and the idea of 100% college attendance preparation and resilience. If college is not attainable, we endeavor 100% career viability, so no child is left behind.” conventional public schooling system or had already been discarded from its confines. Maria identified many factors contributing to this educational exodus: an absence of cultural and linguistic sensitivity, systemic apathy, and a deficiency in teacher training and support. Moreover, low expectations existed for student achievement, inadequate curricular offerings, and a heavy reliance on punitive measures like suspensions and expulsions.

Maria saw a better way, and so did the community that joined her. To combat this educational injustice, they embarked on a journey over three decades ago, initially welcoming 40 students who had either been pushed out or had willingly dropped out of the District of Columbia public schools. By the close of a decade, in 1989, MCIP had blossomed into a full-fledged alternative school, serving a daily cohort of 600 students. This marked the genesis of BMHS – Bell Multicultural High School – born from the merger of MCIP’s core instructional program with the Bell Career Development Center.

Despite many challenges, MCIP surged forward, adapting its methodologies to meet the evolving needs of the BMHS student body. A significant milestone was reached in 2008 with the merger of BMHS and Lincoln Multicultural Middle School, giving rise to the Columbia Heights Educational Campus (CHEC), a groundbreaking institution spanning grades 6 through 12 – a first in Washington D.C. history.

Along the way, Kapindi Kroma joined MCIP and helped Maria and the leadership team expand services to fulfill the mission. Today, he serves as Executive Director of MCIP. “Our programs are run as an efficient model where the school does instructional services during the day. MCIP does enhanced and extended instructional services after school through the evening. Our efficiency benefits every student because we have different grants that complement what the school does. It perfectly complements the instructional vision and the idea of 100% college attendance preparation and resilience. If college is not attainable, we endeavor 100% career viability, so no child is left behind.”

For Maria and Kapindi today, inclusiveness at MCIP is more than just a word. “One thing that we realized when students returned from the pandemic was that engagement was never what we wanted it to be,” says Maria. “After the pandemic, it was even more challenging, and students had decided to do other things. So, we realized we had to change how we were doing things. We needed to know what they wanted, so we’ve focused on student voice and choice over the past two years. We are incorporating what students wish to do in everything from the cafeteria food to the curriculum to how we do the master schedule for the day.”

Kapindi echoes those sentiments and speaks of the strength that comes from a united effort. “Voice and choice are powerful, and the MCIP board has always had student representation. Our bylaws call for at least three student representatives. Now, the school is incorporating that voice and choice philosophy into its strategies and structures. We instill in all of our students that if they take the work seriously, there is nothing that they can’t do. This belief is why we have a delinquency intervention program plus targeted literacy intervention. During the school day, we ask struggling students to come to one-on-one sessions where they can counsel and instruct so they know we care and we’re here to help them succeed.”

This union has broadened MCIP’s outreach and diversified its efforts to encompass middle school education. Today, MCIP stands as a beacon of educational equity, offering myriad evidence-based instructional and support services to bridge the achievement gap for the 1400 students and families comprising CHEC. MCIP continues to pave the path toward a brighter future for all through unwavering dedication and innovative approaches.

“It is wonderful that SER National recognizes MCIP, but mostly because that’s how we started,” recalls Maria fondly. “We would not be here if it weren’t for SER National. We go back to 1979 when I first worked on the proposal for the school with a team of people from SER National. Seeing how far this initiative has gone and can continue for many years is exciting and personally rewarding to experience,” she adds.

Kapindi speaks of the ambitious opportunities beyond the horizon that MCIP is also working to realize. “We are on a journey to create the nation’s first youth-run community development corporation, or CDC, where students come to school and learn the tools to solve problems within their community. Their education is no longer something that they must wait ten years to start applying. Now, reading makes sense, and math makes sense. So do negotiation debates and understanding contracts. All these types of things are relevant and important right now. When we create the CDC, it will be student led and a component to really refining public education that rarely ever changes.”

What does Maria see ahead? The path is promising for her and closely linked to those who will help shape it. “I see us becoming even more of a youth-oriented agency where we incorporate youth voices, not just like a little committee here and there, but everywhere because they are our future. I see us as an organization incorporating them into everything we do and create for tomorrow. What we can achieve is limitless and exciting.”

SER National Wishes You a Joyous July 4th!

SER National Wishes You a Joyous July 4th!

At SER National, July 4th holds profound patriotic importance, as it is for all Americans, marking the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Although it only became a federal holiday in 1941, its celebration dates back to the late 18th century. The holiday is known for its vibrant displays of the American flag and fireworks as we honor our founders’ sacrifices for freedom.

“At SER National, we strive to instill in each of the more than one million stakeholders we serve every year that the greatest freedom is the privilege and opportunity to decide for themselves how they will fulfill their purpose in their lives and within society,” says Ignacio Salazar, President and CEO. “Our role is to inspire independence, explore their talents and skills, and help shape those into a new career, profession, trade, or business. The SER Network of Affiliates encourages its staff to celebrate the core values each of them brings to the team. Together, they can achieve greater success. In the same way, July 4th reminds us we are greater together,” he adds.

Another significant aspect of July 4th is the reminder that individual Americans can improve the workplace. Each person is instrumental in shaping the prosperous country we know today. We champion the standard workday, weekends off, paid vacations, and numerous other labor privileges each of us enjoy.

“This workplace landscape is bearing fruit at a record level,” says Salazar. “According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics, three of every four women in America are working and earning money for themselves and their families. Meanwhile, the rate of men working is better than before the pandemic, or 86.4%,” he adds.

This trend reflects our country’s resilience and the American spirit of adapting and overcoming challenges, which is as strong as ever. As we celebrate this long weekend, let us recognize our achievements and the blessings they bring to our country. Yet, let us strive for even more workplace equity and equality.

“I would encourage everyone this July 4th to go out and enjoy their time with family and friends, mindful of how fortunate we are to work, live, and play in the USA,” says Salazar. “May this holiday be a time to reach out to neighbors we may not know or make new friends in the spirit of a birthday where each of us plays an important role. SER National will continue to promote that spirit year-round so that every day is a new opportunity to be proud of being an American,” he adds.

Happy Independence Day from SER National and the SER Network of Affiliates!